MASSE IN THE HOUSE: Masse Questions Parliamentary Secretary on Federal Government Cuts to Service Canada and CBSA Windsor
November 3rd, 2011 - 1:17pm
Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise again in this chamber to raise an issue that is very important to my riding as well as to accountability in this country. This regards the current President of the Treasury, the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka, and the misallocation of nearly $50 million of border infrastructure funds. These funds did not go into ridings like mine, where there is a significant thickening of the Canada-U.S. border, but it was at the cost of our economy, tourism and a whole series of things that are very important.
I asked the question, then the assistant to the President of the Treasury Board got up to answer, as he has done so many times in the House of Commons. However, he did not expand upon why there was no accountability. This is very important when we are looking at $50 million.
I have a couple of examples that are critical that took place when the President of the Treasury Board was spending $50 million on glow sticks, gazebos, arenas and fake lakes; a series of different projects that really were not appropriate for the G8 and G20.
In Windsor, the federal government closed the administration component and decision making of our customs border facility for a few million dollars. Agents in Windsor now have to apply for communications from 400 kilometres away, to Fort Erie. This is despite a government report that said if there was going to be consolidation of Fort Erie, the Niagara Falls area and Windsor, it should be in Windsor because it is the busiest international border crossing between Canada and the United States. It is one of the busiest in the world. We have agents dealing with drug busts, issues over immigrants coming in illegally and a whole series of particular problems on a daily basis. They now have to radio in to somebody 400 kilometres away to make a decision about apprehension.
The Conservatives often talk about being tough on crime. However, we know that all kinds of handguns get into Canada through the U.S. border and it is unacceptable. This would increase our crime, tragedy and so forth.
Meanwhile, we have $50 million being spent 650 kilometres away from the Windsor-Detroit border on gazebos, fake lakes and a series of pet projects at the same time that the government is cancelling and closing the administration and supervisory capacity at the busiest border crossing, the Windsor-Detroit crossing. That is just not acceptable. We want answers to that question.
If the government has money allocated for those things, then surely it would have enough to protect the streets of Windsor and Essex County all the way up through the 401 Highway to Toronto, Montreal and into Quebec City. It does not make any sense to cut a few million dollars out of this budget and move operations 400 kilometres away just because the Conservatives had pet projects 650 kilometres in the other direction that they wanted to pork barrel.
It is very important that we recognize these ideological cuts by the Conservatives. The government wants 5% in attrition from the department there, but this decision has not been based upon need or fact. In fact, it is counter to the reports that the government made.
I would like to have an answer as to why the government would redirect money from border infrastructure and border support systems to Muskoka when it should have been in Windsor to protect the streets of Ontario.
Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Madam Speaker, what it really boils down to for Canadians to figure out is that $50 million went to gazebos, fake lakes and a series of projects that were supposed to be border funds. Perhaps the cut I am talking about in particular here was not a border infrastructure fund but surely they could have reallocated those moneys for those operations when they were seeking to cut the Windsor decision-making process that keeps guns, drugs and illegal immigrants off the streets of Canada, and they did not do it. We would have had that money easily available for 50 years if it were not misappropriated.